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This is not a light and fluffy, easy-to-read, candy floss post. I wish it were. I wish I could say that I am one of those who has thrived in Lockdown – baking banana bread, learning languages, writing a book, building an orphanage and solving world hunger.

I have learned some Dutch, and done a smidge of baking, but that’s about it. The things that I have done in copious abundance are: worried, ate cheese, campaigned for trans rights, campaigned for Black Lives Matter, worried some more, felt very angry at the government, realised my career is unviable as it stands, failed to campaign for the arts, felt terrible about failing to campaign for the arts, worried, and also, did I mention that I worried?

What am I worried about?

BREXIT

I had a plan once. I was going to get my UK citizenship sorted and then I’d be able to move to Spain for a bit, maybe travel for a bit, and experience the things that I couldn’t do so easily with a US passport because I had limited means and I’d need to be able to work. (Getting a work permit with a US passport in the EU is hard. REALLY hard.)

I got my UK citizenship sorted eventually after having to save, study (for the Life in the UK test – what a redundant pile of trash) and generally leap through festering, flaming, bubonic, bureaucratic loopholes. 5 years later, by the narrowest margin, Brexit won the referendum.

I don’t regret my UK citizenship. After all, my previous was US (which I got rid of early this year). The UK has a reputation for fair play, support for the underdog, letting general good prevail, right?

Nope, nope and nope again. Not presently.

Following the Brexit vote, those of us who had voted remain went a little into hiding. Leavers cheered and denounced foreigners as “having to leave now”. Our supermarket delivery driver informed us that he was looking forward to all the “Muslims having to go home”. Friends from the EU faced verbal and sometimes physical abuse. Things that I never wanted to believe about my adopted country started to become evident.

Now I am facing a future where, as a musician, I cannot tour in the EU without paying an estimated £200 for a visa, plus a carnet for all instruments and any merchandise I want to take on tour. I barely break even with music, I certainly can’t afford that to tour. So just when I was starting to have enough stability to consider it, the option is removed. Just like that.

I don’t know yet how VAT changes might affect digital sales. But I know that if I sell CDs to mainland Europe, I’ll have to take customs into consideration now.

Worst of all, from January 1st, I can’t just hop over to Spain, or the Netherlands, or Switzerland, or, well, anywhere, to work for a few months, or retire. Now I’ll need a considerable amount of money, a Visa, and to hop through the same sort of hoops I hopped through to stay in the UK after my parents brought me here at age 8.

And let this sink in – I’m one of the lucky ones.

EU citizens in the UK face a Windrush-style tragedy in the future if this government doesn’t buck its ideas up. UK citizens abroad who own holiday homes are having to sell up. It may feel like justice for those who voted to Leave (and yes, some of them really did bite their own noses off to spite their faces in just that manner) but a good number voted Remain. Our young people can no longer easily spend a year abroad studying with all the opportunity and openness that presents. The list goes on and on – better and more articulate writers than myself have explained it.

We are smaller and meaner because of Brexit. Not a single Leaver has been able to give me a positive of leaving. Just lots of hot air about “sovereignty”. What, like the kind of sovereignty that means that our laws are currently made by an unelected advisor to the government who views himself as above the law and untouchable? That kind of sovereignty?

You may have detected some anger. I am very very angry. Aside from worry, anger has been my other top emotion over these last months.

COVID19 AND THE DEATH OF MY INCOME AND BUSINESS

Ah, part 2. The part where I lay out just how bad it all is.

And it is bad. I foresaw the lockdown in mid-March and let my singing students know I’d be unable to run in-person lessons for a few months. However it’s now looking like it’s going to be closer to the end of the year. A few of my students opted to move to online lessons, but the rest did not. The reasons will be valid – I don’t have any flaky or non-committed students, I’m very lucky that they are all dedicated. But online is a big ask for neuro-diverse students, or students from low income families who may not have suitable devices or connections. It’s also a big ask for my adult students who have also lost their income. So my income plummeted. I have been able to take repayment holidays on my credit cards/loan for now (hopefully until October) but I had to cancel various memberships relating to my career, and my quickbooks (accounting) subscription.

I got a couple of small grants which have gone toward equipment for online lessons and better web hosting, as I’m currently trying to pivot to online courses that can earn passive income, but I’m still struggling, as I was when I last blogged.

There are two streams of concern here for me, and I’m going to just lay it all out. I have seen people commenting on various fora about how “the government provided help for the self employed so what are you worried about?” and “Surely your previous employer could furlough you” and “What about Universal Credit?” and “You just have to be positive and work hard and it’ll be ok”.

Stream 1 – money

The help that the government provided via SEISS and furlough was great. But I didn’t get any. The SEISS is based on tax years 16-17, 17-18 and 18-19. Apparently it was “too complicated” to use tax year 19-20 even though April had passed and people could file returns. I went from fully employed to fully self employed in Feb 2019, meaning that for most of tax year 18-19, more than 50% of my income was from employment. But to get SEISS, more than 50% of your income must be from self employment. So an unholy combination of the 50% rule plus being newly self employed (and too long ago employed to be able to get furlough) meant I fell through the net on both counts.

I can’t get Universal Credit because my partner works. My partner working is a good thing, of course. We can make rent, and we can eat. But my income was helping keep my business expenses paid, and I was paying down debt, and it was tight. And now I have a lot less income, so it’s becoming even tighter. And the really galling thing is, for years I paid taxes. The most recent years I was just in under my personal allowance because starting businesses take a while to get going, but previous years I paid up, like everyone else. But some people seem to be of some weird opinion that self-employed people are all skimming the pot so it serves us right that we can’t get help. We’re all taking cash under the table, scrounging bastards. Except we’re not. We’re just trying to survive and (although I’m sure there are a minority who rig the game) we follow the law. I did everything right. We calculated whether we could afford me moving to fully self employed and we could. Until Covid.

Oh and just to add insult to injury, SEISS is based on profit, not total income, so even those who were fully self employed for the right years have struggled on the amounts paid which don’t reflect the costs of running a business.

We could have had Universal Basic Income. Those who didn’t need it would have had it recouped in tax. But that’s too socialist for the powers that be. £10k to work from home is fine when paid to MPs but don’t give anything to the scrounging self-employed, they’ll just spend it fraudulently.

Stream 2 – Mental Health

This is the killer. These circumstances are hard for a lot of people, and I know a lot of people who are struggling with their mental health amidst it. We lost our beloved Honey-Cat during the lockdown, a friend of ours died, and there’s the continued stress of trying to stay safe each time we need to pick up groceries or a prescription. At the beginning it was hard because it was all so strange. Now pubs and shops are open so it’s hard because it’s statistically a lot less safe out there. People have forgotten about the 2m spacing (reducing now to 1m which everyone seems to think is actually this big: ><) and the majority aren’t being aware or wearing masks, or doing anything to protect those around them. It’s awful.

I stood in the city centre and cried last week because having struggled in to post a bundle of tax papers to the IRS at the post office, I couldn’t fathom how I was going to get across town safely for the blood tests that were overdue but I needed to have. I listened as a group of girls went past shouting about how they were going to go into WHSmith “just for laughs”. I watched people shove past other people. And I felt so afraid. And this is a regular thing now.

In short, I am watching the business I spent years slowly building disappear because of Covid, and my brain is too consumed with trying to survive each day to be able to pivot with agility to a workable solution. I’m tired. I’m burned out. I am demotivated, scared and don’t know how to carry on. I have been heartbroken watching the damage to the arts, and wanted to campaign meaningfully to try to help but I have so few energy bars left myself that all I can do is stare numbly at Twitter and wonder how we got here. I don’t even have the energy to wonder how we get out.

TRANS RIGHTS (AND WHERE LGBTQ+ RIGHTS ARE GOING IN THE UK IN GENERAL)

My partner is trans. He’s a trans man, and so passes generally pretty easily – from a societal point of view you wouldn’t know unless you looked closely. We have been watching in horror as A Certain Author has made her feelings on trans people (particularly women) known. I’m not here to get into an argument about gender versus sex, or any of that nonsense, I have seen quite enough of it on in the Twitterverse and I have made my opinions known there plenty. As a cis woman I have no problem at all with sharing female only spaces with transwomen. The number of transwomen who have attacked other women is vanishingly small – I am far more concerned about cis men attacking women – and they don’t need to pretend to be female. Any predator will just walk right on in. A little sign on the door of a person in a skirt is not going to stop them.

What is really alarming me is that if the govt passes a “bathroom bill” where people using toilets are policed according to the contents of their pants, it makes it unsafe for all of us. Anyone who doesn’t match an arbitrarily decided definition of how a woman looks will be challenged and potentially face abuse. My husband could be forced to use women’s loos. How the f*** is that going to reassure the women in there?

It seems to me that transphobic folks spend way too long obsessing over other people’s genitals. It’s a lot like how homophobic people used to spend all that time obsessing about what gays and lesbians did in bed. What’s in my pants is of concern to me and me alone. But meanwhile, this rhetoric gets into government. And now we have the government tweeting the LGBTQ+ community to ask us how we feel about conversion therapy? Lemme think, oh yeah – that SHIT is ABUSE and TORTURE and clearly you have been ignoring us for years because if you’d been listening, you’d already know that.

We told the government how we felt about that the same way that hundreds of cis people and trans people told the government to please review the Gender Recognition Act  and make it easier for trans people to change their birth certificate, and they are not listening. And it’s terrifying to think what forms erasure of LGBTQ+ people could take.

 

So anyway. I’m sorry (not sorry) that this is so long. It’s been stewing in my head for weeks. And these are just some of the things. I’ve been outraged watching the police in the US beating on BLM protesters and tear gassing children. George Floyd’s murder, Breonna Taylor’s murder, white women calling the cops on black people just trying to live their lives – I can’t even any more. So I’ve been hiding with my husband watching silly TV, playing World of Warcraft, inching through work, retweeting people who are far more articulate than me, and just trying to keep swimming through this godawful treacle that 2020 has dumped on us all.

I plan to keep on keeping on, because either it will all get better, or the planet will explode in a giant fiery ball of flame, and honestly, right now I’m OK with either option.

 

 

Well now. It’s been a little over a week since the UK Government decreed that we must all stay indoors, apart from a once daily government mandated bit of exercise or shopping (for food or medicine, obviously, not furs and furniture…). I started showing suspicious symptoms on or around the 20th, so I was already on lockdown, although honestly, I’ve lost track of time a little. A dry cough, mild fever, and a headache – oh gods, that headache. There was also a sprinkling of chest pain/tightness, and a bit of a sore throat at the start, but the headache was the worst.

It’s eased now and I am no longer bone-achingly tired, so some of my normal routine has resumed. By “routine” I mean I am getting up and putting clothes on sometime before 11am, and I sit at my computer and try to do work-like activities, and then in the late afternoon I am changing into loungewear and reverting back to eating all the cheese. It’s kind of like Christmas only without the joy.

In the first week or so I very much launched myself into “yes, I will arrange for all of my singing lessons to go online and I will stream live music, and I will Be Productive”. I organised a new microphone for teaching online and got myself set up on Zoom and Calendly. Unfortunately, I suspect that since singing lessons are basically a luxury, and a lot of people are facing a time of zero income, that despite the online offering, I’m probably not going to be anywhere near as busy as I was. I’ve gone from 16 sessions a week to 3, which is a bit of a dip. Thankfully most people do seem to want to return after this is all over, so all I have to do is last out this next few months.

New mic for teaching online

New mic for teaching online

My gigs are all also cancelled or postponed until much later in the year so no income there, but the BandCamp day on Friday 20th March earned me some sales. I’ve put everything in my back catalogue up for “pay what you feel”though. I’d rather it’s there for everyone and not just people who can afford it. Heaven knows we all need some nice distraction right now.

We will manage. My better half is still working full time and we thankfully have some savings tucked away. We’re not touching his fundraised money for surgery – that is stowed safely and I’m hoping we can resume fundraising and saving for that once this is all over and I have an income once again. Meanwhile, I am continuing to write the Udemy singing course that I started working on before this kicked off. In the short term, it might be just the ticket for people who want to start learning to sing, and in the long term I can add more courses once I’ve learned how to do it.

I guess the main thing right now is adapting to this new normal. I thought I’d be all fired up and want to write more new music, but the reality is I’m tired, scared, and can only really focus on one moment at a time. I find the news and social media overwhelming and there are some days where all I really want to do is hole up in bed with a book. I have to remind myself that these are strange hard times for everyone, and that this will pass. Because it will. There will be a time when we all look back and say “remember when..?” and we will feel so glad and grateful it is over and we can be out in the sun with our friends again.

I have been consistently impressed with our friends and neighbours and with all of the stories I am reading on social media about people coming together to help one another. The silver linings do exist, although that will be scant comfort to people who lose loved ones to this.

Not really sure what else to add. I did a livestreamed gig for CoronaGig which can still be watched on their page, I’ll probably aim to do another such event in a month or so. Maybe with some new songs if I’ve managed to move into a more productive stage of things!

Meanwhile, stay safe, stay well, and stay home! Wash your hands, practice physical distancing, and remember that this too will pass. Our time in the sun will come.

 

If you are interested in learning to sing via online singing lessons, please check out my page and drop me a message on the contact form! 

…and I feel mostly ok actually with occasional bouts of “WTAF?”

So the impact of coronavirus is finally making itself felt in the UK and we have been advised to practice social distancing and self isolation (the latter more for people with mild symptoms, or people like myself who come under the banner of vulnerable, either due to age or pre-existing medical conditions). Fortunately for me this announcement came from on high the day that we returned from our weekend away in Edinburgh, and I have to say, I am extremely grateful for the time away as it’s probably the last for a while.

Now the self-isolation has begun, we have decent stocks of chocolate, tea bags and alcohol, and my main issue has become how to move my business online, as I evidently can’t have students coming to the house at present.

I am potentially looking at three income streams: Online singing lessons, an online video singing course (on Udemy) and trying to arrange some form of gigging using streaming for tips. I had already started writing the Udemy course in a fit of foresight, so that is simply a case of scripting and recording the videos, which I can chip away at a little each day.

The online singing lessons is proving interesting. There are difficulties that I had not really considered before and will need to address before I can roll this out to students:

  1. Lag. The usual online offerings (Zoom, Skype, Webex etc) can be subject to noticeable lag which can be very off-putting mid lesson. I briefly investigated voicelessons.com (which claims to be lag free) and signed up to a webinar about it but the price structure is confusing and expensive and my questions about it were not answered by the CEO (who was on chat during the webinar) so I fear that option is not for me.
  2. GDPR considerations. Skype certainly would require me to have contact details for each student (yes, I already have those, but I keep them encrypted myself) in order for the student to connect with me. Attached to this are…
  3. Safeguarding issues. On this score Zoom fares quite well – the student does not need to give out contact info to access the meeting, they only need to click on the link I give. But there are other concerns about maintaining professionalism, whether the parent can be in the room with the student during the session and so on. I would need a robust policy in place. This is not a problem, I can create one, but as I have never done this sort of thing before I need to be careful about it and make sure it is done correctly.

I will continue to investigate the options and experiment. Fortunately, I have had several people offer to be guinea pigs for online lessons so I can practice first!

Finally, how to gig and get written stuff out there. As you are probably aware, I released Hummingbird in November (If you haven’t got it yet, go get it – great music for a quarantine!) but I plan to continue releasing music and gigging despite coronavirus. To this end I have signed up on Ko-fi. I decided to go for Ko-fi instead of Patreon initially because my content creation isn’t as quick as Patreon likes it to be, and there are a few other nice advantages – Ko-fi takes no money, runs a streamlined platform and allows me to put buttons everywhere. Like here.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

So yeah, that’s that. The other thing I have been doing is that we have now moved hosts for my music and tuition websites so that we can apply SSL certificates to them, so they should all be secure now.

I’m not really sure what the purpose of this post is, other than to share what I’m up to in response to the impending apocalypse and also for me to see in black and white what I am trying to achieve at the moment! I hope you are all staying safe out there and I will be back with more updates very soon 🙂 in the meantime, wash your hands, stay hydrated, and let me know your favourite disease apocalypse movie in the comments!

Transformation

Well good morning, gentle readers. It’s a blustery, wet Monday here in Yorkshire as Storm Cíara tries to get the last word before departing.

I have not been much given to personal exposition in this blog. It’s largely been about music, singing, and my attempts to make it in the industry, but today I’d like to talk about something close to my heart.

My wonderful spouse, Gem, came out as transgender early last year. This was not really a surprise to me, I think on a gut level I knew he wasn’t happy even before he did. He started on hormone treatment last April, and I have watched as he has grown into himself more and more.

This post isn’t intended to be a primer on all things transgender. I am massively inexperienced in the whole topic, but what I know is that my spouse was sad, and now is starting to feel much happier in himself. I’m watching him become who he was meant to be, and this is an amazing thing.

It hasn’t been without its frustrations though. Did you know that in order to get a diagnosis of gender dysphoria (the technical term for Gem’s condition) you have to be referred to the Gender Identity Clinic nearest you (in our case Leeds)? There would initially have been a 15 to 18 month waiting list for Gem just to have the first appointment. No diagnosis at this appointment though, just a chat. Then a further 15 to 18 month wait for a diagnostic appointment. All before any hormone therapy or surgery can even be considered. Gem’s situation was even more dire to begin with, as the initial 18 month wait was nearing its end, he contacted the GIC, to find out that due to a staffing shortage, he could expect to wait a FURTHER 15 to 18 months, JUST FOR THE INITIAL CONSULTATION.

Approximately 4 and a half years minimum in total, assuming no further delays just for the diagnosis that would allow him to move on with his transition.

Fortunately, through an outreach program, Gem was able to see an endocrinologist in Harrogate independently and get started on testosterone, which he did last April. We then decided to investigate private consultation for the diagnosis, and I’m so glad we did, Gem was ably and swiftly assessed and diagnosed by Dr Lorimer, in London, in October last year.

His next step is surgery, and since there is still no news from the GIC in Leeds, we are planning to get his top surgery done privately, and we have an initial consultation with Mr Miles Berry in March this year.

I’m pleased that we have a route forward, albeit an expensive route. We are now fundraising, and using this as a chance to raise awareness of how difficult it is for people to come out as transgender and get the support they need. But that’s the thing. It really bothers me that as a society we still haven’t made any sort of meaningful progress in making this process better. There are stacks of statistics about how damaging gender dysphoria is for mental health, and how alienated and isolated transgender people can become. The social effects are well documented, so why is it still so hard in this day and age, in a developed nation, to get the help one needs?

Not all of the processes need be difficult. For example, Gem’s testosterone injections. We were super lucky that we were able to start this process off independently of an assessment by the GIC. But I know of many situations where people who have been prescribed hormone therapy for their transitions struggle to find support from their GP. Even Gem, with our excellent GP, sometimes has to battle to get his prescription issued in a timely fashion, and has had to explain his situation numerous times to different staff at the surgery. This should not be an issue. Patient-facing staff should be trained in this, or a note on the patients file should be visible. There are ways around this that simply involve more thoughtfulness, which costs nothing.

In this midst of this, there are transphobic people claiming that transwomen are just men who want access to women-only spaces so that they can be predators. (no mention of why transmen exist), and people who believe that anyone transitioning is doing it to be fashionable.  Anyone who genuinely believes that needs educating in just how difficult and demeaning this process is. Even after getting surgery, and taking testosterone, and jumping through the million and one hoops to transition, Gem’s situation will still (eventually) be discussed by a panel who don’t know him and have never met him, and they and they alone, will be the ones to decide whether Gem can have a Gender Recognition Certificate, that magical piece of paper that will allow Gem’s gender to be legally recognised. A tad more difficult than getting your nails done, or just, you know, being a predator (note, I’m sure transgender predators exist, as I am sure predators exist in all walks of life, but to imagine that someone would go through this process simply to expedite their own predatory behaviour is beyond ridiculous).

So yeah. This is a difficult and convoluted thing that we are doing. We are deeply blessed by our many wonderful friends and colleagues who have been so supportive, giving their time, money and hugs when it’s all seemed a little impossible.

We even got some coverage in the local press and on our local BBC radio station, you can hear a bit about it here.

A number of my musician friends are giving their time for free on the 1st March to come and play at a little fundraising gig we are putting on at the Fulford Arms in York. I do hope you will come along, if you are in the area, it’s a great way to hear a lot of fabulous local bands for the knock down price of £5 advance or £7 on the door. Doors open at 3:30pm and the gig runs until 11pm.

BUY TICKETS

A4 Transformation Poster - blue

If you can’t make it but you would still like to support Gem by making a donation, he has a GoFundMe page – every little helps and we are so grateful!

Finally, if you would like more information and advice, there are some good resources here:

https://www.tranzwiki.net/

https://mermaidsuk.org.uk/

http://genderedintelligence.co.uk/

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2012/nov/29/transgender-advice-best-resources-online

 

 

 

Hummingbird is now loose in the world, a mere four years after Here At A Distance, which might as well have been decades, it felt so long. Feels good to have finally done it though! The album launch went well – although the audience was smaller than expected due to the various lurgies sweeping the nation, it was friendly and attentive, and both Sarah Hardman and The Nocturnal Flowers played excellent sets.

Casee Wilson 09.11.19

Photo copyright R Mitchell 2019

SET LIST:

  1. Super
  2. She Used to be Mine (cover, orig. Sara Bareilles)
  3. Faded and Foolish
  4. Wolf Among the Flock
  5. Hummingbird
  6. Chandelier (cover, orig. Sia)
  7. Roses
  8. Lifeboat
  9. Wild Heather
  10. Tiny Hands
  11. Waterboy (cover, orig. Rhiannon Giddens)
  12. Burn
  13. Clockwork Ballerina
  14. World Reborn
  15. Midnight Blues
Casee Wilson Micklegate Social 19-11-09

photo copyright: R Mitchell 2019

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, here’re some more pictures…

All photos are copyright Robert Mitchell.

Some thank yous are definitely owed: The Nocturnal Flowers and Sarah Hardman Music for coming and playing and sharing their music, Faith Benson Productions for awesome sound in the face of challenging equipment, Robert Mitchell for photos and positive affirmations aplenty, Gem for his unwavering spirit and support and everyone who turned out to the gig, watched or shared the stream, and generally reminds me that I’m not making music for the void!

If you don’t have the album yet (why not???) you have multiple options for acquisition:

Streaming: It’s on Spotify. If you love me, put it on repeat. Forever.

Digitally: Bandcamp is the best for audiophiles, as you can have it in whichever format you prefer, including various lossless forms. iTunes and Amazon are also carrying it.

Physical CDs: My own website (or from me in person if you see me regularly) – I’ll sign it to you. You might even get a badge or a sticker (while stocks last). It is also scattered about in several locations around York, notably Busk Coffee Shop (Fishergate, York – get a coffee and cake, buy a CD while you are there), Portal Bookshop (these copies are signed, although not personalised, and who doesn’t need a bit of dark Disney folk playing while they read, right? Right???) and finally HMV on Coney Street, York.

Right then. I’m off to get a cuppa and have a little sit down. Until next time!

Toodles! xxx

I finally, finally made it.

Hummingbird is being released on the 9th November 2019. All of the files have gone to the CD manufacture plant, everything is uploaded to Emubands for distribution, and I can finally breathe again.

Hummingbird large

It was a bit of an exciting ride. I had been gently ambling along, doing a bit of writing here and mixing there and not really rushing things. I figured I had until this week to send the CD Master files. Alas for me, the company I chose to use this time (entirely because they had really good reviews and because they are one of the few places in the UK willing to do low number runs of glass mastered CDs) got in touch with me to say they would be closed for a crucial period. So I ended up finishing the writing, recording, mixing and mastering, all within a frantic 72 hour period.

There was not enough gin in the world for this. Still, I persisted.

Everything went off by the 11th October. Last week was spent mastering instrumentals (in the event that I manage to place anything in film or TV, they always like a good instrumental) and dealing with the distributor, and this week I am doing promo and remembering how to breathe again.

Meanwhile, I had a very fun gig at Busk in York towards the end of September which gave me an opportunity to dust off a new cover (Waterboy, originally by Rhiannon Giddons) and generally sing to a very enthusiastic audience. It was a really enjoyable evening, very atmospheric, and I hope the first of many more to come.

So what now? Well, pre-orders are open for both digital and physical CDs of Hummingbird. I highly recommend it, but then I am biased!

The Launch Party is on the 9th November, at Micklegate SOCIAL, 148 Micklegate, York, YO1 6JX – FREE ENTRY! Doors at 7:30, music starts at 8 and I will be very ably supported by Sarah Hardman and The Nocturnal Flowers. Due to the venue’s own licensing laws, it’s over 18’s only, so please bring ID, but don’t let that put you off!

Hummingbird launch poster

See you there!

 

 

So here we are again, a fair bit quicker than your last wait for a blog post! Life continues, as it does, in a plodding fashion, interspersed with occasional mad dashes and periodic moments of standing still wondering WTF just happened/is going on/is about to happen.

We have a new addition to the family too, in the form of a Dutch Shepherd/Border Collie cross called Pepper. She’s a proper wee puddin’, except when she’s barking at/eating/chewing/chasing things that she shouldn’t, which thankfully is less often that it could be, given her age (6 months).

Oh, you want a picture?

Ok then:

Pepper

She likes: Goat’s ears, farting, running through long grass, rain, baths, the cats (who are indifferent/scornful so far), belly rubs, singing along when I rehearse and chewing things.

She dislikes: automatic doors, unexpected joggers, being told she can’t look in the cat’s litter trays for delicacies and heavy machinery.

What else to tell you… well, I finally completed the title track for the album, Hummingbird. This is a huge step as it’s one of those songs I’d been fighting with for ages. I have a theory that songs are either easy birth (15-60 minutes from start to finish, back in the fields straight after) or first time, new mum labour (hours and hours, maybe even days, excruciatingly painful, only aided by drugs and massage). Hummingbird was the latter for sure. I mean, sure, the drug was chocolate, and it was more like weeks, which would constitute a medical emergency in an actual childbirth situation, but the analogy (sort of) still holds…

Anyway. I finished it the day before Filey Folk Festival, and it gets it’s first outing here, at about 38 minutes in: https://www.facebook.com/caseewilson/videos/461181547958494/

Speaking of Filey, I had a blast, as I always do, and it was absolutely lovely to be booked for next year before the day had even finished! I know I’m not gigging much at the moment, and a lot of that is because I haven’t been actively seeking gigs – there’s been a lot on both externally and internally for me, but it’s so nice to know people want to book me 🙂

The upshot of all this is, I only have a few more songs to finish before I’ll have the whole album. It’s definitely, finally, starting to come together – I just have to keep working on it, a piece at a time. And not get distracted by the New Hound.

Still flying…

In the words of Malcolm Reynolds, the stalwart captain of Serenity, I am still flying. It’s been a year since my last blog post (why does this suddenly feel like a confession) and I’m trying to find my way back into the world of creativity and self expression after what has been the hardest couple of years in recent memory.

This year’s FAWM saw a massive increase in my song-writing productivity – from 0 songs the February before to 2 new songs this year. This is good. It’s not the best, but it’s good.

I took the frightening step into full time self employment too, giving up my day job as an administrator to teach singing, so I am now, finally, making 100% of my income from music and music related activities. This is a really huge thing for me, as it has been a goal for the longest time.

So now, I’m actively working on two major projects: Promoting my tuition business (Tiny Cat Vocal Tuition – because we have cats, not because I intend to make my pupils sound like cats, let alone tiny cats…) and getting Hummingbird finished at long last and only several years later than originally intended.

Hummingbird

Album cover – first draft – drawn using Pixelmator on the iPad

Things still feel slow, but there is movement, albeit like a glacier. It can feel imperceptible, and sometimes it’s frustrating, that feeling that I am letting everyone down, that I am letting myself down, that I’m not achieving things as quickly as I would like. I hate that life events have necessitated recovery time, because I am essentially quite an impatient person. But creative projects, businesses and good wine all have something in common: they take time, and time taken makes them better.

So as I step into this new phase, I remind myself that I am still flying, and that I am allowed to take the time I need for my projects to mature. I have survived, and now I will thrive.

 

Well hello. Yes, as always, it has been Some Time, and I’m not foolish enough to promise it won’t be Some Time again until I post the next one. I haven’t really been in a disclosing mood. My father passed away the week before Christmas, and the year in the run up to his death was full of trying to find resolution, trying to deal with hopes dashed time and again, and trying to fit in all the things I wanted to say to him before he left us.

As a result, it was a strange year from a musical perspective too. I had intended to blog much more frequently, get my Patreon set up, release “Hummingbird” (now to be an album, not an EP) and gig much more. Instead I spent a large part of it seeing the inside of the Blackburn Royal Infirmary and googling things like “what to do when your parent has cancer”. Now I am starting to climb back on the horse, only to find the horse is more like a mule, and I forgot how to ride this damn thing.

Still, better late than never. I have been quietly chipping away at things in the background and today, dear reader, I’d like to talk about something close to my heart – expectations and how best to ensure they are met.

Let me illustrate with a story.

Early last year, I played a 3 set gig at a venue in York. Unnamed for their protection, and please don’t name and shame in comments if you know where I mean. It was a roaring success. Lots of my fans came, the venue did a roaring bar trade, random strangers kept coming up to chat to me and compliment the songs, it was fab. The venue contacted the promotor who had set up the gig and they were happy to have me back. Now, my set list for this was pretty much made up of stuff I had written, interspersed with some gentle covers – all in all the sort of set that goes with a half pub/half restaurant people-are-trying-to-chill-here vibe.

33448 Casee Wilson Eagle &amp; Child 17-08-04

I returned to the venue in August. This was a completely different night. The bar staff were downright hostile, the venue was much quieter (illness and poor weather had shut down much of York that night) and in the first break, the bar staff approached the sound engineer and asked her to ask me to play more covers. I did notice, and gratefully, that several people stopped to compliment me on this occasion too, so it seems the disappointment with the evening’s entertainment was limited to the bar staff.

Quick reminder. I was invited back based on the previous gig. I changed very little on the new set lists, only focusing a little more on upbeat material as I had slightly less time so I dropped a couple of my more introspective songs.

I have heard from the promoter that that venue does not want me back.

The thing that kills me is that if they had said “listen, we’re going for trying to attract a more boisterous crowd, can we have more covers” when they had BOOKED me, that’s exactly what they would have got. They said nothing, leaving me going on what I knew from previously.

Two sets of expectations were not met here: I expected that my own material, which I crafted heart and soul and which they seemed to enjoy the first time, to go down equally as well months later. That expectation was not met and my self confidence took a massive knock.

The venue expected a covers jukebox, which they did not get. I doubt this gave them any lasting trauma, but I can understand that they may have felt disappointed.

So this goes out as a plea to venues. Please be clear about what you want. Please be aware that even if you don’t get what you expected, the artist has worked hard, so hard, to bring you these songs, and a little respect is not that hard to provide. And please, never put the sound person in the position of having to tell the artist that the venue hates them. That’s just unprofessional.

I’d love to hear from any artists or venue who did not get what they expected. How did you resolve it and what would you do differently next time?

In this day and age, a little internet-related paranoia is not surprising, in fact it is practically de rigeur to be feeling a little got at. But in the case of Facebook, it’s not just the tin-foil hat wearing brigade who are starting to feel the pinch.

Have you noticed how your reach has gone down and down? Have you noticed how where you USED to be able to become verified, you can no longer find the page that tells you how to do it? Or the option to do it in settings? How your music player no longer streams or displays properly? And how, no matter where you look, Facebook tech support consists of users on under-used forums, swapping out of date links to try to fix problems cause by Facebook constantly moving the goalposts?

Facebook hates musicians. If you are a business and you sell stuff, great! Facebook will allow you to become verified after checking your identity, taking your fingerprints, and extracting the promise of your firstborn’s soul. Try being a member of the creative community though and those tools shall not be yours. If you are unlucky enough to be a musician with a common name, you can forget becoming verified to help prevent confusion amongst your fans.

Facebook hates musicians. Trying to build a list of followers? Facebook won’t show your posts to the people who have elected to like your page and follow you, so you can forget about reaching a new audience. And if you have the temerity to pay for advertising, your organic reach will actually disappear, making you utterly reliant on advertising to even reach your existing fan base.

Facebook hates musicians. I have lost count of all the ways. My music player disappeared. Gone. Just a text link where it once sat, looking awesome and allowing people who visited my page to hear my stuff. So I went in search of an option to add another one. Also gone. And my account has not been authorised to host a catalogue, so despite the fact that Spotify stream all three of my albums, that is not enough for Facebook to allow me to use the Spotify widget. And there is no customer service, or technical support, from Facebook to even explain to me the mystical realms by which this works.

Then, on the same day this happened, I found article after article about how you can measure an artist’s worth by how many followers they have on Facebook. But artists can’t get new followers when Facebook methodically strips out every tool that they could once have used to promote their music. Facebook hates musicians. Facebook will actively prevent artists from inviting “too many people” to an event. Facebook. Hates. Musicians.

What are your options instead as an unsigned artist? Well. Your own website is a must. Tie everything to it, always return to it, and run your social media through it. Facebook can still be useful, with persistence, work and a staunch avoidance of their ad campaigns. Tie it to Twitter which, despite the character limitation, is a vibrant community where it is actually possible to become verified, eventually.

But there’s a new kid on the block that I urge you to try.

Tie your social media and your website to Drooble. Get your friends, family, foes, dentist, chiropractor and MP onto Drooble. Drooble is not just for musicians, although they are the primary audience. Music fans are also welcome, like a thunderstorm on an oppressive day, or like tech support would be from Facebook. Or a box of donuts when you’re really hungry. Unless you’re gluten free. You get my drift. Get thee to Drooble, and show Facebook how it’s really done.

Drooble loves musicians. Let me count the ways:

Karma – Karma is the lifeblood of Drooble. Everything on Drooble is free, from a monetary perspective, anyway. Interacting with others, to like a post, comment, listen to a song, post a song, write a post, promote some music, make a friend – everything earns Karma. That Karma can be exchanged for a fully professional Electronic Press Kit, or to make a song the song of the week, giving it headline exposure. There is an entire range of promotional tools which can be purchased with Karma – the more you interact and support others, the more you can support and promote yourself.

Drooble Radio – you do not need to spend Karma to upload songs to Drooble which are then automatically added to Drooble’s online radio. This allows new users, who have not yet found their way around, to hit the ground running and get some songs up. Ditto the (very thorough) profile, which all users get for free, as well as the interview portion which allows you to really express who you are and what you are about.

The community – because of the Karma system, when you post on Drooble, it doesn’t just disappear into the void. The encouragement of interaction has the lovely effect of creating a community of likeminded people all of whom either make music or love listening to it. So far, outside of FAWM, it is one of the friendliest online places I have been. It’s a breath of fresh air.

I have only been on Drooble for a couple of weeks, around work and gigging, but so far I have a lot of hope for it. It has it’s weak spots – some of the technical aspects are still being ironed out, but the team who created it are incredibly approachable and happy to take feedback. It’s main problem is that not enough people know about it yet. I’d like to see more promoters, reviewers, record labels and fans taking an interest, to make it a truly excellent networking place. A musical LinkedIn if you will. The tools for musicians are really very good, and it doesn’t take much imagination to extrapolate that this could be a gamechanger for musicians trying to get their careers off the ground as independents.

Here endeth the lesson. The TL:DR is: Facebook hates musicians. Drooble loves them. Go Team Drooble.